After providing a few tips on de-stressing my weeknight meals here, I wanted to follow up with some “pseudorecipes” that have saved this tired mama time and time again.
So let’s talk about the ONE-POT CONCEPT. This is quick. This has everything in it. It’s not perfect. In fact, it’s a hot mess of a meal sometimes. And these are pretty toolish instructions, but you get the idea: Pick a grain. Pick a veggie. Pick a protein. Cook as necessary and combine (I usually have 2-3 things cooking at once). Add herbs, salt, pepper, a pinch of lemon/lime, a white vinegar if you want tang, and add cheese if you want. It took me a while to find my groove, but now I can get a meal out in 15-20 minutes. So experiment.
MY FAMILY’S FAVORITE COMBINATIONS:
— Prosciutto/Charred Peas/Artichoke/Lemon/Quinoa/Parmesan
— Bacon/Charred (Shredded) Brussels Sprouts/Quinoa/Parmesan
— Rotisserie Chicken/Roasted Sweet Potato & Tomatillo/Lime/Quinoa
— Rotisserie Chicken/Roasted Broccoli/Wild Rice/Cheddar
— Rotisserie Chicken/Zucchini/Jasmine Rice/Indian Simmering Sauce
— Tilapia/Mango/Apple/Pistachio/Mint/Couscous/Goat cheese
For example, in the above prosciutto quinoa version, I pan-sear frozen peas, artichoke halves, and prosciutto until they’re caramelized in places, add in a quick-cook quinoa package, squeeze of lemon, dash of white wine vinegar, S&P, and pre-shaved parmesan. Total time is however long it takes to char those frozen veggies. About 15-20 minutes from opening the freezer to putting on the plate.
Prep times will vary if you have to chop or thaw, but I try to keep my prep time to a minimum with pre-chopped veggies, rotisserie chicken, and quick-cook grain packages. Doesn’t always happen and I’m often stuck thawing chicken that I should have the day before or I have to get my workout in with a sweet potato, but overall, I try to make this very low stress as I would rather be glitter-painting with Nina.
1. Try to buy a combo of fresh and frozen fruits, veggies, and proteins that can be interchangeable and pair well in different combinations. It’s like packing only whites and grays for a vacation (most combos work well together). Examples:
–GRAINS– Costco or Central Market have decent (organic) 90-second quick-cook grain packages from red/white quinoa to farro, wheat berry, wild rice, etc. Also have pasta in the pantry and ravioli in the freezer.
–VEGGIES– I always keep a combo of these in my freezer: butternut squash, cauliflower, artichoke, peas, kale, French green beans, eggplant, etc. And a combo of these in the fridge: tomatoes, avocado, arugula, spinach, shallot, pickled beets, shredded carrots, broccoli, zucchini, baby red potatoes, tomatillos, asparagus, etc.
–PROTEINS– Rotisserie chicken, frozen tilapia or salmon, pre-seasoned pork loin, really good sliced deli chicken to shred in a pinch, turkey meatballs, chicken sausage, etc.
2. Roast veggies at high temps in the oven (450-500 degrees) to maximize time (10-12 minutes) and caramelize them a bit. Lightly coat with EVOO (or equivalent) and season with all-purpose seasoning and pre-chopped garlic. My favorite veggies to roast: broccoli, all potatoes, all squashes, Brussels sprouts, etc. But when you’re too tired to pre-heat your oven, microwave steam those badboys.
3. Think about buying pre-chopped veggies sometimes. The splurge is worth the time. My top go-to versions are brussels sprouts, butternut squash, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
4. Veggies trump proteins in a pinch. If you screwed up and know it’s going to take too long to thaw that damned chicken, ditch it for the next night.
5. When in doubt, a bit of cheese or butter helps, though in moderation, of course!
6. More tips here.
NEXT UP: Comfort foods.